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Feliz Ano Nuevo

sunny 25 °C

We didn't do much today, as everything was closed. We did go for a walk around Gringo Land, which is close to our condo and where most of the tourists hang out. We didn't like it much too many tourists and not authentic enough for us, so we left.

Happy New Year everyone and all the best for 2013.

Posted by MRCL72 05:41 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

New Years Eve

semi-overcast 25 °C

Today was a rest day for all of us and I think we needed it. We did go for a walk around Quito but not much was happening everyone was preparing themselves for the celebrations that would come later in the evening.

In Ecuador people buy and then burn on New Years eve effigies, which marks the passing of the old year and helps start the new year off fresh. During our walk we saw many different types, simple ones that were just clothing stuffed with newspaper to very large elaborate paper mache ones. Some of the more elaborate ones were painted to look like super hero's, super villain's, Bart Simpson we even saw Miss Piggy. Ecuadoreans have been driving around with these strapped to the front or roof of their cars all week.

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Fire works were also being sold on every corner, it was going to be quite a show later on.

As we were heading back to the condo I had to take a picture of the power lines and the 2 lines hanging down to the ground in front of us.

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We spent the evening at home, had a couple drinks and played Bananagrams, a game that Vaughn Tammy and the kinds gave Miguel and I for Christmas. The fire works started around 8pm. Just a few were being set off in the distance.

Some of us just couldn't stay up until midnight, but we were all woken up at 12am. At midnight the sky suddenly came alive with color and noise. Ecuadoreans love their fireworks and from our 9th floor balcony we had pretty good seats for the show. Which continued for about 45 minutes, but all through the night more fireworks could be heard popping and banging in the distance.

Posted by MRCL72 05:20 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Mindo

semi-overcast 20 °C

This morning we headed off for Mindo a town in the cloud forest. But we were down 2 people Tyson wasn't feeling well and Tammy stayed home with him. We hadn't gone to far when our driver asked if we wanted to see a volcano crater. Pululahua volcano has been dormant for about 2500 years, and is a awesome view point. Miguel and I took our picture together, since most people don't believe we travel together as we are seldom in pictures together.

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Back on our way to Mindo, the higher we climbed the cloudier and foggier it got. We soon found ourselves in Mindo, famous for bird watching, butterfly's, orchids and the cloud forest.

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We started out with a trip to see some orchid's and butterfly's. Not all of the flowers pictured here are orchid's, but they were in the garden too.

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The owner of this particular place also raises butterflies, which in spanish are called Mariposas.

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These first couple of pictures are of the eggs and caterpillars before they become butterflies.

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The large caterpillars turn into Owl Butterflies. So called because the markings on their wings look like an owl's eye.

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He also had some hummingbirds and a pair of geese in his garden.

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To Vaughn and Miguels delight, Mindo has a chocolate factory. Its relatively new, so we headed off for a tour.

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They are unable to grow Cacao beans here in Mindo, its too wet. The beans come from Porto Quito an area on the coast. But they do grow lemongrass, ginger, coffee beans, and chili's which they mix into the chocolate to create different flavours that they sell.

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In the garden was this massive head of cabbage that I had to take a picture of.

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At the end of the tour we got some samples of the chocolate they produce and of course bought some to bring home.

After stopping for lunch and having the typical plate - comida tipica. Which was a bowl of chicken vegtable soup followed by a plate with chicken, rice and fried plantains all for $2.50. We headed off to see some waterfalls and for a ride in the Tarabida. Which turned out to be little more than a metal box with seats on a cable that zipped you across a large deep gorge. The power came from an old truck engine, which was sitting in a little shack, with a guy working the gas and brake.

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Once on the other side we did a short hike to a waterfall, there were several but it was getting late and we still needed to drive back to Quito.

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Back across the Tarabida we went, and started the trip towards home. One of the activites we didn't do, was tubing down the Mindo river on inner tubes tied together a group seven tubes.

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Back at home we found dinner ready for us and Tyson was feeling much better. Its was to bed early for all of us, as Kaytlyn was heading back home tomorrow and needed to be at the airport early.

Posted by MRCL72 04:58 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Otavalo

sunny 25 °C

As I said, why slow down now. Up early for a McDonalds breakfast, which is very conveniently located 2 blocks from our condo. We met our driver Edwin and his son Andres in front of our building. Into the van and off to Otavalo, which on Saturday has a huge market place. For those that know me, I hate large crowds and especially hate crowds of people shopping, but this was an amazing experience.

On the way we passed the Mitad Del Mundo and then drove across the actual equator, up some steep winding roads and after about 20 minutes of driving, all of us agreed it was much better to have hired the driver, then to have attempted driving ourselves. Ecuadorean's love their horns, don't use signal lights or pay attention to the lines of the roads. For that matter they don't seem to pay attention to any rules of the road, except stop signs and stop lights.

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On the way we stopped at a view point above San Pablo Lake.

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A little bit more driving and we arrived in Otavalo, our first stop was the animal market which was slowing down as it starts bright and early in the morning and is usually almost finished by 10 am. Cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits and guinea pig's all change hands here.

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Next stop the market place, our driver dropped us off and we said we would meet him back at the drop off point in 90 minutes. People are very friendly and english was spoken by many vendors. The amount of goods for sale was amazing, and anything you touched brought someone out of their stall to try and make a sale. Haggling was the word of the day. After wandering around and looking at everything it was clear that 90 minutes was not enough to fully experience this market place, but we had other things to do.

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We left Otavalo and headed to Cotacachi, which is the leather capital of Ecuador. Leather shops are everywhere here, selling shoe's, bags, jackets, luggage, wallets, hats and almost anything you can imagine made out of leather. If you find yourself in Ecuador and in need of some new leather good's Cotacachi is the place to visit. Everything was very reasonably priced too. We had lunch here and started our trip back to Quito. Personally I would have skipped Cotacachi and spend more time in Otavalo.

We arrived back in Quito and asked our driver to take us to a supermarket to get some groceries, and then headed for home.

Posted by MRCL72 05:41 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

North Seymour Island and Adios Tip Top III

semi-overcast 25 °C

This morning was an early one 5:30am and off we went for our last excursion. North Seymour island is another non volcanic island, uplifted from the sea by seismic activity. It is also a nesting place for many of the birds we have encountered during our visit.

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Near the end of our early morning walk we encountered 2 fur seals climbing up on to the rocks. Fur seals have a very different bark than sea lions, they are also smaller and have quite a different face. There are not many fur seals in the Galapagos, so we were luck to spot these 2.

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We boarded the panga's and headed back to the boat for breakfast and to finish packing our cabins.

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As we said our goodbye's to the crew and boarded the panga's for our last trip to the dock, I can easily say this was one of the most amazing holidays I have ever been on. To anyone considering the Galapagos as a holiday, save your pennies and go.

I don't think we could have asked for a better boat, crew or naturalist guide, they all did an amazing job. Richard our guide never failed to explain everything we saw, he was willing repeat his explanations if someone was taking the perfect picture instead of listening. He was able to answer everyone's questions, of which there were many. The captain and crew of the boat worked so hard to help make this trip amazing, they were up before we all were and went to bed after we all did. The boat was always clean, neat and tidy. Our thanks to you all for making this a great experience.

During our time with Richard he reminded us that our environment is very fragile, El Nino years devastate the Galapagos Islands and many iguana's, sea lion's, birds and other wildlife die during the el nino phenomenon. We did witness this during our time on the islands, a few animal skeletons and carcass's did cross our paths. Just a single degree change in water temperature means death to many marine animals, which in turn affects the many birds that feed on small fish. We are all able to make small changes to our lifestyles that mean huge benefits to our environment. Even something as simple as turning our home temperature down 1 degree in the winter or up a couple degrees in the summer so our furnaces and air conditioners don't consume as much energy. Or not running the water while brushing your teeth, something I know I am guilty of and will change my habits. Even on the boat they recycled, asked us to turn off our cabin a/c and lights during the day or when we were not in them.

Our flight back to Quito was only 2 hours long. When we landed we were met by a driver we had arranged, took our things to the condo and decided to visit Mitad del Mundo, the equator monument, why slow down now.

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However the monument is geographically inaccurate, the actual equator is about 240 meters north of the marked line. Which we did cross the next day on our trip to Otavalo.

We returned to our condo and headed out for dinner, on the way back we came across some people burning a large stuffed doll on the sidewalk. They explained that on New Years eve Ecuadoreans burn these effigies to mark the passing of the year. They all worked together and were burning one early since they would be with family on new years eve and not co-workers.

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With that we headed up to the condo and off to bed, it was going to be another early morning and a busy day.

Posted by MRCL72 04:45 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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